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Janet Deatrick says philanthropic pursuits were inspired by alumni engagement

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Even small donations can make a difference, alum says Heading link

Janet Deatrick, PhD ’82, RN, FAAN, never thought she’d be the type of person who would donate money to create a named award at a college – until that’s exactly what she did.

Deatrick spent her career focused on family nursing research – specifically, on improving the lives of long-term survivors of childhood cancer. Except for a stint as a department head, she never aspired to academic leadership, and found fulfillment in mentoring students and working with families.

She considered philanthropic giving to be the domain of college deans, administrators and the very wealthy, not “normal” people like herself.

“I didn’t see myself with those ladies and gentlemen,” she says. “[In my mind,] they’re up there [on another level]. They give money, but that’s not me. Then I figured out, ‘Well, actually, that is me, and I want to give it to people like me.’”

Deatrick’s annual gift of $2,500 funds the UIC Nursing Janet A. Deatrick Assistant Professor Award to support research by junior faculty members. She’s also stipulated in her will that a lump sum (paid for with insurance funds) will go toward continuing the gift in perpetuity.

“I don’t have a history of philanthropy,” she says. “And I feel that my gifts are very humble compared to what other people may give. But what I’m hoping this shows people is that [being a donor] is within sight.”

Deatrick began to consider making a gift after being asked by former dean Terri Weaver to serve on the UIC Nursing External Advisory Board, a group of community and business leaders who advise college leaders on strategic planning. She got an up-close view of the college’s need for funds from different constituencies to support its tripartite mission of research, teaching and practice.

In her role on the board, she was inspired by the generosity of other donors and began to reflect on her own meaningful experience at UIC Nursing.

“I really felt like the tools that I gained through my education and experiences at UIC changed my life,” she says. “It opened up a whole new opportunity for me to develop myself and my nursing, as I tried to work to improve the health of families. That’s really been my lifelong goal.”

Deatrick says faculty were critical to her success in Chicago, including then-dean Helen Grace and lifelong friend and colleague Kathleen Knafl. Deatrick went on to spend her career on faculty at the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing.

“Fast forward to today, after being a faculty member for so many years, I know how difficult it is to get started as a young professor,” she says. “At the beginning of one’s career, it’s sort of a make-or-break situation, in terms of growing your science significantly, receiving tenure, or, if you’re on the clinical track, being promoted.”

She chose to focus her gift on helping early-stage faculty because she recognized how even “little pots of money” can be especially beneficial at that point in someone’s career, allowing them to hire a research assistant or purchase a much-needed piece of equipment. It can also help young faculty members who are being reviewed for larger grants to be able to say they were selected for funding.

The Deatrick Award was established in 2011 and the first recipient was Susan Corbridge, PhD ’09, in 2013. Since then, there have been one to two recipients each year.

Deatrick says it was important to her to figure out how to contribute to the diversity of research portfolios and clinical practice going on at UIC Nursing. Her advice to other potential donors – particularly people like herself who may not think they’re in a financial position to give – is to “think about what’s reasonable for you and try to reach a little from there.”

“There was no question that I wanted to figure out how I could best give,” she says.

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